Ribollita | Tuscan Vegetable Soup |Siena, Italy

By Sally Cameron on January 17, 2011

gluten-free, soups, stews & chilies, the daniel plan, travel, vegan, vegetarian,

11 Comments

Ribollita|AFoodCentricLife.com

There is nothing like a warming bowl of soup to satisfy the soul. The Tuscan bean and vegetable soup, Ribollita, is just the right recipe.

Siena, Italy

It was a chilly, fall Sunday morning in the medieval city of Siena in Tuscany, Italy. Famed for its cuisine, art, cathedral and Il Palio horse race, Siena is an ancient and historic marvel. When you arrive you can hardly believe you are there. It’s the scene of storybooks, postcards and movie sets.

Ribollita|AFoodCentricLife.com

Exploring cobblestone alleyways, stopping at every turn to take photographs left us in need of a warm lunch.

Ribollita|AFoodCentricLife.com

A small unassuming restaurant close to our hotel looked like just the spot.  How how could we resist a restaurant named for an Italian grandmother?

Osteria Nonna Gina & Ribollita

Seated at our small wooden table, we watched as the cozy dining room quickly filled with local families. Always a good sign.

You’ll find a hearty vegetable soup called Ribollita everywhere in Tuscany. In English, Ribollita means “reboiled”.  It is a way for thrifty Tuscan cooks to use leftover vegetables and bread from the week. Vegetables, bread and Cannellini beans; sounds like the perfect lunch.

Ribollita|AFoodCentricLife.com

A steaming bowl of ribollita arrived, it’s thickness created from bread cubes that have melted in. Just top with a little fresh Parmesan cheese.

With every bite I quickly learned why this was the famous soup of the region.  Complete with a good glass of local Chianti wine, we had a warm and comforting lunch. We listened to the banter of Italian families around us, enjoying a good meal on a Sunday afternoon.  I couldn’t wait to make it at home.

Ribollita at Home

Never having made Ribollita, I did some research and found inspiration from a recipe inThe Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten. I’ve adapted her recipe to bring it closer to what I enjoyed in Italy.

Ribollita|AFoodCentricLife.com

Overnight Soak Method

Soaking dried beans overnight starts the rehydration process. It also cuts down on cooking time by about 25% and helps the beans to cook more consistently and not split.

Start your beans the night ahead by soaking in a pot. Pour beans into the empty pot and pick out any broken beans or debris. Then cover the beans in cold water. Cover and refrigerate over night.

Quick Soak Method

For a faster process, use the quick-soak method to get your beans ready. Place beans in a heavy pot (like a Le Creuset Dutch oven), cover with water and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat,. Remove pot from heat, cover beans with a lid, and allow them to soak for one hour.  Drain beans and start the soup recipe. This method may also help break down more of the simple sugars that make beans hard to digest for some people.

Rancho Gordo Beans

For high quality dried Cannellini beans, I order from Rancho Gordo in Napa Valley, my favorite heirloom bean supplier. Their Cannellini beans are fantastic, like big, plump pillows after cooking. You ‘ll find many more uses for them besides this soup recipe, so be sure to order a few extra bags.

2014 Note – Unfortunately due to inconsistent crop yields, Rancho Gordo no longer sells their wonderful cannellini beans. You may find them by other brands at your local market, or try what they suggest as a replacement – the Royal Corona Bean.

Ingredient Notes

Due to all of the vegetables, there is a bit of prep work to this recipe. Think of it as great knife skills practice. You can even do the prep ahead and start the soup when you are ready.

With it’s lightly sweet licorice flavor, diced fennel is a great addition to this soup. I’ve also reduced broth to make it thicker. Homemade turkey broth was in my freezer, but chicken broth works great.

For vegetarians, use vegetable broth. For vegetarians, omit the pancetta.

Gluten-free Option

On bread – I used less, just 2 cups of cracked wheat sourdough bread cubes. Since going gluten-free (sourdough is one thing I do miss), use gluten-free bread or bread crumbs (homemade) to thicken the soup.

Every time  I make this soup I will remember our wonderful time in Siena and lunch of ribollita.

Ribollita | Tuscan Vegetable Soup |Siena, Italy

This hearty, thick soup is filled with vegetables, Cannellini beans and bread cubes that melt in to create a thick, stew-like consistency. Perfect for a cold day when you need something warming, and a great way to use up vegetables and bread in the Italian tradition. I started with a recipe from The Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten and adapted it to what we experienced in Italy. For a vegetarian or vegan version, use homemade vegetable broth and skip the pancetta. This is even better the next day, so you can make it ahead or enjoy great leftovers. Start by soaking the beans overnight or use the quick soak method, or use canned beans in a pinch.

Ingredients

  • ½ pound dried cannellini beans or 3 cups of canned beans 227 grams, rinsed and drained
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil plus extra for serving if desired
  • 4 ounces pancetta 113 grams, diced small
  • 2 cups diced onion 300 grams, 1 jumbo or 2 medium
  • 3-4 large cloves of fresh garlic minced
  • 1 cup diced carrots about 3-4 medium
  • 1 cup diced celery about 3-4 stalks
  • 1 cup diced fennel 1 medium
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 28- ounce can petite diced tomatoes 794 grams
  • 4 cups chopped kale most of a head, ribs cut out, then chopped
  • ½ cup fresh chopped basil leaves
  • 4 cups chicken broth 1 liter, preferably homemade
  • 2 cups sourdough bread cubes crusts removed
  • ½ cup or more grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. To soak the beans overnight: In a large bowl, cover the Cannellini beans with cold water to cover by several inches. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate overnight.  If you’ve forgotten to soak the beans overnight, use this quick soak method, below. 
  2. Drain the beans and place them in a large pot with 8 cups ( 2 liters) of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 45-60 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon salt and continue simmering until beans are tender, about 15 minutes longer.  Set the beans aside in their liquid to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large pot over medium heat, cook the pancetta until crisp. Drain on paper towels and set aside. Add the oil to the pot and over medium-low heat cook onions until they are soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the drained pancetta, carrots, celery, fennel, salt, black and red pepper. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 7-10 minutes. Add tomatoes and reserved juice, kale, and basil and simmer another 7-10 minutes.
  4. Drain the cooled beans, reserving the liquid. Puree half of the beans with a little of the liquid in a blender.  Add bean puree to the pot with the vegetables, then add the remaining whole beans. Discard the remaining bean liquid. (in a hurry, skip the puree and just add the beans).
  5. Add chicken broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add bread cubes and simmer another 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. Drizzle with a little more olive oil or extra chopped basil if desired.
  6. This soup is even better the next day. I like it very thick as I had it in Italy. If you want more brothy soup you can add a little more broth.
  7. Quick Soak Bean Method – Rinse the beans in cold water, place them in a large, heavy pot  (like  Le Creuset Dutch Oven) and cover with cold water by about 3″. Bring the beans to a boil and bowl for 2 minutes. Turn the heat off. Cover pot and remove from the heat. Allow beans to sit for an hour. The beans are ready to use as if they were soaked.
  8.  

11 Comments

Leave a Comment
Nan | January 18, 2011 at 8:24 am

I think this soup looks so good! I’ve been making a fair number of soups this winter and think this ribollita should go into the line up.

Beautiful photos of Italy!

Chef Debbie of Yummy~issimo! | January 20, 2011 at 7:59 am

This soup is fantastic! I typically look at recipes and change a lot of things but this is one that I made exactly as written and have shared (with Chef Sally’s permission) on the radio. Thanks Chef Sally for always offering us great recipes that are easy to prepare, healthy and tasty!

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Christine | November 5, 2013 at 7:30 am

FYI…of all the recipes I found for ribollita…yours is the best. However, I made a change of my own which you would probably love. I used Italian flavored chicken sausage and swisschard instead of kale and pancetta. I’m in love with this soup and have made it three times since September. It’s a total winner!!!!

    Sally | November 5, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Thanks Christine! Excellent changes! Thanks for reporting back so everyone can try it this way. I love using chicken sausage and always have it in the fridge or freezer. Good job!

Gillian | February 24, 2014 at 8:50 am

This recipe is absolutely delicious! I’m making it again today. Hubby loves it 🙂

    Sally | February 24, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Love to hear that Gillian. Thanks for commenting back. Always makes me happy to know my recipes are helping people!

Heather | April 24, 2014 at 6:55 am

Loved this soup and so did my family!

Brenda | September 22, 2014 at 4:21 am

Today I’m buying the ingredients to make this. One question though…if freezing half and serving the other half over several days, should it add the bread cubes all at once, or when I am reheating the soup in small batches? Thanks.

    Sally | September 23, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    Hi Brenda. That is a good question! Think I would add them when you re-heat the soup. Please let me know how it comes out. Would be a good comment for others to read as well.

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